American Stars ‘n Bars: Neil Young

Rating: 100%

American_Stars'n'Bars1977 and after scraping the Homegrown project, Neil Young released some of that material on “American Stars ‘n Bars.” This outstanding record is among one of my favorite Neil Young records. So you when I saw this on vinyl, I quickly picked it up. His backing band Crazy Horse is aided by the Bullet Band.

The result, is an record that pulls from the heaviness of Crazy Horse, mixing with Country Rock and a tad bit of Folk. That equals an album that is super raw, rich, tuneful, and melodious. I love the harmony and the feel of the tempo. It’s both sloppy and simple. The vocal work on the chorus is amazing. This is one of those albums that could have been one big hit. Although, as time has gone by “Like A Hurricane” is the one song that has stood the decades and has been a favorite at concerts.

The musicianship is at it’s best. From the steel guitar to the fiddle for that Country sound to the heaviness of riffs and lead solos that we call Hard Rock. It’s all well balanced and all accounted for here.

Track listing:

A1 The Old Country Waltz
A2 Saddle Up The Palomino
A3 Hey Babe
A4 Hold Back The Tears
A5 Bite The Bullet
B1 Star Of Bethlehem
B2 Will To Love
B3 Like A Hurricane
B4 Homegrown

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Ozark Mountain Daredevils: Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Rating: 95%

OMDs_1973.jpgThis great 1973 debut release by Ozark Mountain Daredevils to me is a forgotten gem. It was also the band’s most successful release. The entire album is brilliant with the elements of Country and Rock blending together to form a unique Southern Rock sound with a dash of Folk.

The instruments are very rich with tight grooves. The overall sound is very rich and can be very heavy even without electric instruments. The melodies are perfectly done. The harmonies are tasteful. Nice even tempos with tons of complex chords. The song structures are amazing from the opening to the ending. You can hear every instrument at work from the foreground to the background. Meaning, the softness of the fiddle to the Jew harp. Song writing is very good even those songs that are corny, but sound very good like “Chicken Train.” This album as rich it is in sound is crystal clear. That is because of all that musicianship which is great.

Track listing:

“Country Girl” – 3:16
“Spaceship Orion” – 3:11
“If You Wanna Get to Heaven”  – 3:04
“Chicken Train” – 3:37
“Colorado Song”  – 5:05
“Standin’ on the Rock” – 3:54
“Road to Glory” – 4:55
“Black Sky” – 3:08
“Within Without”– 4:25
“Beauty in the River” (John Dillon) – 3:55

Time Fades Away : Neil Young

Rating: 90%

TimefadesawayI picked up this forgotten gem at Chuck’s R.I.P. Records for $10.00 damn near mint condition. As we were talking, we both noted that this live album was never released on CD until this year, 2017, but as part of a box set.  This record was released in 1973 with his band the Stray Gators.

Upon listening to this record, it hit me. This is material that I never heard before, even though, I have every CD that Neil Young has released including the Box set of Archives. The sound is fantastic. The style of music, a combination of raw Country and Folk Rock that makes Neil’s Hard Rock sound is amazing. The guitar parts are brilliant. The steel guitar really adds that special touch to the music.  Think about the music of “On the Beach” combined with the Country music side of “American Stars and Bars.”

The musicianship is outstanding. Neil Young is on top of his game. I love the sound of his guitar when he plays music like this. Neil also plays piano on this record. The man knows how to play and write music that he feels. David Crosby and Graham Nash also make an appearance on the record as well. Ben Keith on the pedal and slide guitar really adds that rich Country style sound to the overall music. Other musicians include pianist Jack Nitzsche, drummer Johnny Barbata, and bassist Tim Drummond.

Overall this is a great sounding performance. The material is great all around. I am glad that I happen to find this record in such great shape and add this to my collection.

Track listing:

Side One
1. “Time Fades Away” (recorded at The Myriad in Oklahoma City, March 1, 1973) 5:36
2. “Journey thru the Past” (recorded at the Public Hall in Cleveland, February 11, 1973) 3:19
3. “Yonder Stands the Sinner” (recorded at the Seattle Center Coliseum in Seattle, March 17, 1973) 3:17
4. “L.A.” (recorded at The Myriad in Oklahoma City March 1, 1973) 3:11
5. “Love in Mind” (recorded in Royce Hall at the University of California, Los Angeles, January 30, 1971) 1:58

Side Two
1. “Don’t Be Denied” (recorded at The Coliseum in Phoenix, March 28, 1973) 5:16
2. “The Bridge” (recorded at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, April 1, 1973) 3:05
3. “Last Dance” (recorded at the Sports Arena in San Diego, March 29, 1973) 8:47

Straight to Hell: Hank3

Rating: 90%

Hank_III_Straight_to_Hell“Straight to Hell” is a double CD release by Hank3 in 2006. When I heard this album for the first time, I remember thinking about how much darker in lyrical terms it was compared to the first two albums Hank3 released. Musically, it’s a lot heavier. Also, this was the first Country music album to wear the Parental Advisory for lyrical content and to where Wal-mart had a clean version of the album for it’s customers to buy. Again, Hank3’s third album here is much darker and heavier than his previous two, but it is an enjoyable album, if one can handle the drug references and the F bomb.

The album begins with a sweet melody that seems to be old timey. After that introduction, it’s full throttle for the most part. Some of my favorite early Hank3 songs are on this album. The entire album has a good clean sound with the exception of the second disc which is more background noise driven. Musically, this album is a mixture of gospel, traditional Country, Heavy Metal, and Punk thrown in and incorporated into Hank3’s main sound. Instrumentation is very good all around.

Lyrically, this album is very dark. Lots of drug references may keep the traditional Country fan from enjoying his music, or at least make it uncomfortable for the listener. Hank3 also pays tribute to some of his Country music heroes including Waylon Jennings. Anther interesting point, it seems that Hank3 is really pissed off. Number one he’s pissed at the record company, two, I think he’s a bit pissed off at his father and adopted son Kid Rock. “Not Everybody Likes Us” is a good song to listen to in order to hear what I mean. There is also a good bit of humor in the lyrics. “My Drinkin’ Problem” is a humorous song about a woman telling her man to quit his drinking or she’ll leave him. After nearly drinking himself to death to see if she would really would leave, she did.

I love Hank3’s music. He is a brilliant musician, song writer, and entertainer. There is no comparison of Hank3’s style to compare it to, but vocally, I swear he is just like his grandfather Hank Williams.

Track listing:

Disc I:

1. “Satan Is Real / Straight to Hell (Medley)” 3:08
2. “Thrown Out of the Bar”  2:07
3. “Things You Do to Me”  2:22
4. “Country Heroes” 3:29
5. “D. Ray White” 3:47
6. “Low Down” 3:24
7. “Pills I Took”  2:31
8. “Smoke & Wine” 2:36
9. “My Drinkin’ Problem” 2:42
10. “Crazed Country Rebel”  3:09
11. “Dick in Dixie”  2:37
12. “Not Everybody Likes Us” 4:30
13. “Angel of Sin” 6:07

Disc II:

1. “Louisiana Stripes”  3:28
Medley
2. “I Could Never Be Ashamed of You” 42:00
3. “Smoke & Wine (Slowed Down Version)”
4. “Alone & Dying”
5. “On My Own”
6. “Back by My Side”
7. “Take My Pain”
8. “What’s His Name”
9. “Loaded 44”
10. “Up in Smoke”

Neil Young: Neil Young

Rating: 85%

Neil_Young_(album)_cover.jpgIn 1969, Neil Young fresh out of Buffalo Springfield, went into his own direction releasing his debut solo record. So, I purchased this record for .25 thinking that I was getting the “After the Gold Rush” vinyl. I was surprised to see that this was in it when I got home. Nonetheless, it was a Neil vinyl that I didn’t have.

Musically, this album sees Neil Young learning how to fly. It’s rooted in Folk and Country Rock influences with a touch of the Psychedelic sound to this guitar. It’s an extension of the former Buffalo Springfield sound. Highlights include the “I’ve Been Waiting for You”, “The Old Laughing Lady”, “The Last Trip to Tulsa”, and “What Did You Do to My Life?”.

This album was a flop upon it’s release, but Neil Young a few months later, would release one of the all-time greatest albums with his new backing band Crazy Horse. Although, a flop, this album is very important as it marked the beginning for Neil Young’s career, and very long career at that.

Track listing:

Side one
1. “The Emperor of Wyoming” 2:14
2. “The Loner” 3:55
3. “If I Could Have Her Tonight” 2:15
4. “I’ve Been Waiting for You” 2:30
5. “The Old Laughing Lady” 5:58
Side two
6. “String Quartet from Whiskey Boot Hill” (Jack Nitzsche) 1:04
7. “Here We Are in the Years” 3:27
8. “What Did You Do to My Life?” 2:28
9. “I’ve Loved Her So Long” 2:40
10. “The Last Trip to Tulsa” 9:25

Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell: Social Distortion

Rating: 90%

Social_Distortion_-_Somewhere_Between_Heaven_and_Hell_cover1992 was the year that “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” by Social D was released. The album features some very talented musicians. The musicianship is incredible. Lead vocalist and lead guitarist Mike Ness whose voice is whiskey drench sings the blues or country and punk as if those genres were created for him. His leads and riffs are so precise. Rhythm guitarist Dennis Danell throws out such good riffs. He actually compliments Mike Ness’s style. Plenty of great bass by John Maurer. The drum lines by Christopher Reece are wonderfully done.

Musically, this album is rock solid from start to finish. It flows very well. The influences from Punk, Country, Blues, Rock n’ Roll, and Rockabilly are  so balanced. It’s heavy, but it could be played on any radio station no matter the genre. It’s very energetic and powerful. Everything in so in tuned here from the melodies to the harmony of the instruments to the vocals.

Track listing:

“Cold Feelings” – 3:31
“Bad Luck” – 4:26
“Making Believe” (Jimmy Work) – 4:12
“Born to Lose” – 4:09
“Bye Bye Baby” – 3:06
“When She Begins” – 5:04
“99 to Life” – 4:28
“King of Fools” (W.E. Bruce) – 2:50
“Sometimes I Do” – 4:01
“This Time Darlin’ ” – 4:08
“Ghost Town Blues” – 4:38

The Pursuit Of Happiness: The Beat Farmers

Rating: 90%

r-593302-1135993129-jpegI was introduced to the Beat Farmers shortly after this release in 1988. It was Country, it was Punk, it was Rockabilly, and it was Rock. I didn’t know how to take the band at first, but I quickly grew to love the Beat Farmers.

The musicianship is extremely tight with this group. The band members often switched instruments, but you had guitarist & vocalist Joey Harris, bassist Rolle Love Bass, drummer, pianist, vocalist & guitarist Country Dick Montana, and drummer, vocalist, harp, & guitarist Jerry Raney.

Musically, this is Country music done in a fun way that was just as traditional as any. Their style of Punk, traditional Country, and Rock n’ Roll is remarkable. The guitar work is truly a work of art. The remake of Johnny Cash’s “Red River” is wonderfully done. Country Dick has that voice that is deep enough to pull a great cover off. The lead guitar that is heavily distorted is amazing.

The Beat Farmers were one of those bands that were somewhat popular and then after the death of Country Dick, just went their own ways. “The Pursuit of Happiness” is still one of my favorite albums of theirs.

Track listing:

Hollywood Hills 4:21
Ridin’ 4:08
Dark Light 4:08
Make It Last 4:04
Key To The World 3:22
God Is Here Tonight 3:40
Big Big Man 3:58
Elephant Day Parade 2:44
Rosie 2:23
Texas 3:26
Big River 2:36